Alongside several other events, China has cancelled the Indian women’s hockey tour due to the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus, leaving the federation with the difficult task of finding an opponent to compete with as part of its preparation for the Olympics.
The team, which was scheduled to travel to China from March 14 to 25, will now face a hurdle in their summer games preparation, due to a halt caused by the fast-spreading disease, that has killed over 636 people and infected at least 31,161.
“We had to travel to China but that has been cancelled due to the virus. So a lot of teams are also not available to play with because they are participating in the Pro hockey league,” Indian skipper Rani Rampal told PTI.
All the top teams including Argentina, Belgium, Australia, Germany, China, Great Britain, Netherlands, New Zealand and United States are competing in the FIH Pro Hockey League.
With less than five months left for the Tokyo Olympics, time is crucial for preparing for the quadrennial event.
“Hockey India and our coaches are working out whom to play. For good preparation, you need to play with good teams,” said the Indian captain who was recently named World Games Athlete of the Year.
Rani also became the first-ever hockey player worldwide to bag the honour.
Related news: Rani Rampal wins World Games Athlete of the Year award
After the tour of New Zealand that ended on Wednesday, the Indian team is scheduled to go through a four-week training and conditioning camp from February 16 to March 14.
With uncertainty looming over the schedule the women’s team will be left with three weeks of free time before they again head to a training and preparatory camp on April 6.
Last year, the Indian women’s team booked an Olympic berth by defeating USA at the Bhubaneswar leg of the 2019 FIH Olympic Qualifiers.
It will be only the third appearance by the Indian side at the Olympics.
Last month, China also announced the suspension of all domestic football and postponed indefinitely the top-flight Chinese Super League (CSL) season.
The announcement came few hours after the World Indoor Athletics Championships, scheduled to take place in the Chinese city of Nanjing in March, were postponed until 2021 after advice from the World Health Organisation.
The International Tennis Federation moved this month’s Fed Cup’s Asia/Oceania Group I event from Dongguan, southern China, to Kazakhstan on February 4-8. The Asian indoor athletics championships planned for February 12-13 in Hangzhou have also been cancelled.
(With inputs from agencies)